UPDATE August 2016
I checked out the three Sawyer water filters we own for our week-long canoe trip to Canada this year. I decided to order three new elements in case our three years the old filters stopped working. All of our three-year-old filters performed flawlessly all week long – a truly amazing product.
UPDATE October 2015
It’s been two years since I wrote this review, and our Sawyer 3-Way filters (we own three) are still working like new. They have performed flawlessly for our weekend backpacking trips and our week-long canoe trips to Canada. Back-washing the filters only takes a minute or two, and they perform like new.[/su_box]
Over the past thirty years of camping I’ve owned or used several different pump-type filters and tried different chemical purification options. Each has their merits and drawbacks. Pump-type filters have been prone to mechanical failure, tricky to use, prone to clogging and slow to use. Chemical purifiers take longer, leave an aftertaste, and depend on carefully measured, accurate proportions.
Providing a group of Scouts with filtered water means you really want a foolproof, reliable system, if something doesn’t work flawlessly everything grinds to a halt.
Several years ago I settled on a gravity filter as the best way to provide water for a group. Gravity filters aren’t prone to mechanical failure like pump filters and are less fussy than chemical treatment. The only serious limitation is the filter element. Typical glass fiber filter elements slowed down to a trickle after ten or fifteen gallons of filtering.
The Sawyer 3-way water filter employs hollow membrane technology derived from kidney dialysis. The hollow fiber filter provides free flowing filtration and is able to withstand back washing so the filter can be reused.
Sawyer’s filter technology meets or exceeds EPA and worldwide standards (there’s extensive testing data here if you are interested).
I purchased three of the Sawyer 3-Way water filter elements, refit our old gravity fed system and took them on our week-long canoe trip. A week of trouble-free filtering for three different crews (about 40 gallons during the week for each group of nine) convinced me these are the best filters I have ever used. The Sawyer 3-Way worked like a champ. As each day passed I monitored the filter’s performance and it didn’t seem to slow down. Truth be told I was a little worried we had done something wrong because the filter seemed to flow too fast! Check out the video for an idea of just how well the filter works.
Sawyer 3-Way Inline Water Filter at Amazon
The 3-Way uses quick tubing connectors (something increasingly common on outdoor gear). A faucet adapter helps you back-wash the element thoroughly. Back-washing requires high water pressure; hold the faucet adapter or you’ll get wet! After back-washing our filters flow as freely as they did when new.
Sawyer 4 Liter System
I refit our old gravity system with Sawyer filter elements. If you are starting from scratch Sawyer offers a 2 and 4 liter filter system with the 3-way filter element.
Sawyer 2 and 4 Liter Gravity System at Amazon
Sawyer Mini Water Filter
The Sawyer Mini Water Filter fits in the palm of your hand, with a manufacturer’s limited lifetime warranty.
Sawyer Mini Filtration System at Amazon